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Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of freedom of opinion and expression
Purpose of the mandate
Freedom of expression is the cornerstone of democracy, which allows individuals and groups to enjoy several other human rights and freedoms. The mandate of the Special Rapporteur was created by the Human Rights Council to protect and promote freedom of opinion and expression, offline and online, in light of international human rights law and standards.
About the mandate
In 1993, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights established the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.  
After replacing the Commission on Human Rights, the Human Rights Council decided to extend the mandate for another three years in March 2008 (resolution 7/36). The mandate was renewed again for an additional three years in March 2011 (HRC resolution 16/4), March 2014 (resolution 25/2), March 2017(resolution 34/18) and again in March 2020 (resolution 43/4).
Learn more about the mandate.
Current mandate holder
Irene Khan was appointed as UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Opinion and Expression in August 2020 and is the first woman to hold this mandate. An internationally recognized advocate for human rights, gender equality and social justice, she was Secretary-General of Amnesty International from 2001 to 2009 and Director-General of the International Development Law Organization (IDLO) from 2010 to 2019. Ms. Khan is affiliated with the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, and has been Consulting Editor of the Daily Star, Bangladesh’s largest English newspaper. Read Ms. Khan’s full biography.
Latest thematic reports
Disinformation and freedom of expression: In this report, the Special Rapporteur examines the threats posed by disinformation to human rights, democratic institutions and development processes. She calls for multidimensional and multistakeholder responses that are well grounded in the international human rights framework and urges companies to review their business model and States to recalibrate their responses to disinformation, enhancing the role of free, independent and diverse media. View report page| View document: A/HRC/47/25
Academic freedom: In this report, the Special Rapporteur highlightsthat restrictions on academic freedom limit the sharing of information and knowledge, thus the right to freedom of opinion and expression, including the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds. View report page | View document: A/75/261
Disease pandemics: In this report, submitted at the 44th session of the Human Rights Council in June 2020, the Special Rapporteur registers alarm that some efforts to combat the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic may be failing to meet the standards of legality, necessity and proportionality, and highlights five areas of concern, showing that access to information, independent media and other free expression rights are critical to meeting the challenges of pandemic. View report page | View document A/HRC/44/49
Online hate speech: In this report, submitted at the 74th session of the General Assembly in September 2019, the Special Rapporteur explains how international human rights law standards provide a framework for Governments considering regulatory options and companies determining how to respect human rights online. View report page | View document A/74/486
Surveillance and human rights: This report, submitted at the 41st session of the Human Rights Council in June-July 2019, examines the problem of targeted surveillance and the regulation of the public-private collaboration in the sale, transfer, use and after-sales support of surveillance technologies. View report page | View document A/HRC/41/35
Latest country reports
Mission to Ethiopia (2-9 December 2019)
View document A/HRC/44/49/Add.1
Follow up report (2019) to country visits in Japan (2016), Turkey (2016), Honduras (2012), Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories (2011) and Côte d’Ivoire (2004)
View report page | View document A/HRC/41/35/ADD.2

Latest news

Iran: Jailed for defending women who opposed compulsory veiling, Nasrin Sotoudeh must be freed, say UN experts
21 June 2021

Mexico: UN and regional experts call for peace after violent election campaign
8 June 2021

More press releases and statements...
Archived news
(over 3 years old)
Calls for input
Report on gender justice and the right to freedom of opinion and expression
Deadline: 14 June 2021
Feature stories

Interview with Special Advisor on Genocide Adama Dieng on Hate Speech
27 September 2019
UN Expert: Content moderation should not trample free speech
19 July 2018

Joint Statement on recent violent escalations during youth-led protests around the world (PDF)
Joint Declaration on freedom of expression and elections in the digital age (PDF) (also in العربية | Français | Русский | Español)
30 April 2020
Joint Declaration on challenges to Freedom of Expression in the Next Decade (PDF) (also in العربية | Français | Español)
10 July 2019
Joint letter to the United Nations Secretary-General calling for an international investigation of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi (PDF)
20 November 2018
Joint declaration on media independence and diversity in the digital age (PDF) (also in Español)
2 May 2018
Former mandate holders
Mr. David Kaye (United States of America)
August 2014 - July 2020
Mr. Frank William La Rue (Guatemala)
August 2008 - July 2014
Mr. Ambeyi Ligabo (Kenya)
August 2002 - July 2008
Mr. Abid Hussain (India)
April 1993 - July 2002

Special Procedures
About Special Procedures
Submitting complaints
About country visits
​Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and opinion
International standards
Current mandate holder
Annual thematic reports
Country visits
Comments on legislation and policy
​Recent thematic reports
Disinformation and freedom of opinion and expression (2021)
Academic freedom (2020)
Disease pandemics (2020)
Online hate speech (2019)
Surveillance and human rights (2019)
Artificial Intelligence technologies and implications for the information environment (2018)
Online content regulation (2018)
Access to information in international organizations (2017)
The role of digital access providers (2017)
Contemporary challenges to freedom of expression (2016)
Freedom of expression, states and the private sector in the digital age (2016)
The protection of sources and whistleblowers (2015)
The use of encryption and anonymity to exercise the rights to freedom of opinion and expression in the digital age (2015)
​Contact information
Ms. Irene Khan
Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression
8-14 Avenue de la Paix
1211 Geneve 10, Switzerland

Fax: +41 22 917 9006
Email: freedex@ohchr.org
External links
UNESCO and freedom of expression
OSCE The Representative on the Freedom of the media
Organization of American States (OAS). The Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression
Council of Europe, Protecting media freedoms
Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights
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